In February this year I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a Charity Masterclass in association with DARO (University of Birmingham’s Development and Alumni and Relations Office).
Admittedly, I was not 100% sure about what this all was when I sheepishly applied to the masterclass scheme. I have been interested in the charity sector as being a prospective career for a few years and I thought that finding out about my university as a charity would be a one-of-a-kind opportunity to give me insight into the sector. And it definitely did.
We started the day at the top floor of Muirhead Tower – and the view was absolutely amazing! We spoke to Simon Lerwill, Director of Development and Alumni Relations and Matt Mangan, Head of Transformational Philanthropy about the roles that they play in the donation and fundraising process. It was astounding to realise that the amounts that could be donated to the University ranged from £2 or £3 to £15 million! It was also interesting to hear about Simon and Matt’s career paths and how they had started off in different sectors like marketing, communications, etc. One thing that was interesting was Simon’s background as a ‘student caller’ at UoB. It was a role I had never heard of and it involves calling various alumni members to inform them about various projects and schemes that the university needs funding for.
We then moved onto our ‘Hidden Spaces’ tour of the University. We had no idea that we would get the once in a lifetime opportunity to go to the top of Old Joe! It was so amazing to know that only a handful of people are allowed to go up each year and we successfully ticked that achievement off of our bucket lists. We even got to go into one of the clock faces and look at the mechanisms. It was really interesting to find out that Old Joe was built thanks to an anonymous donation to the University when it was being built. Then we moved onto the Bramall Concert Hall and discovered it was designed by the same architect who designed Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. The last stop on our tour was the Lapworth Museum – where we were welcomed by a dinosaur! And we also found out that the building was once used as an ambulance bay in WWI when the Aston Webb building was converted into a hospital.
Then we had an intriguing and intimate insight into the research Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown was conducting into early miscarriage, its causes and how it can possibly be prevented or dealt with better. It was astounding to realise that clinicians do not normally investigate early miscarriages until a woman has miscarried at least 3 times previously. This research is reliant on the donations received, and seeing this real medical research made it hit home that the funding the university receives really is vital to helping future generations not only in Birmingham but the UK, and even the rest of the World.
Soon enough it was lunch time and we made our way to Urban Coffee in the city centre. There we talked to an alumna who frequently supports the University’s scholarships and research projects. It was so interesting to learn about her University backstory and how she saves money each year to contribute to various schemes at UoB. It showed that alumni really do love UoB and are willing to give money back to the place that had started off their future.
After lunch we returned to uni to have a mini masterclass in what direct mailing (forgotten exactly what it’s called) is. It is the post that charities send out to
make people aware about their new appeals. We then had the (slightly daunting) task of writing our own direct mail based on the research into early miscarriage we had been educated about earlier. It was really fun and challenging to try and write and design them on the spot but it was amazing to have hands on job experience.
Then it was time for dinner – pizza at The Plough in Harborne. But then back to University for a comedy night at the Bramall! Although it was a very long and very jam-packed day I’d do it all over again. It was definitely a highlight of my second year at uni and has really urged me to look into charity sector internships, work experience and future careers.
If you’re interested in the charity sector or you’re just intrigued about how the University receives funding and donations then definitely check out the DARO Charity Masterclass next year. You’ll not only explore a new career path, but you’ll find out about a vast range of people, experiences, and a new hidden space that you may never have known about before. Who knows? You might even get to go to the top of Old Joe.